In 1999, at the end of a long day at my job, I would shut down my computer, turn off the office lights, grab my car keys and leave work.
If it was a weeknight, I went home to rest. Maybe I cooked dinner with my fiancé. Or I’d read a book or watch a show at 9PM (because if I didn’t sit down at exactly 9PM, I would miss it). Then I’d head to bed at 10 when the show was over.
I rarely worked at home and I didn’t feel at all guilty about it. Work happened in the office, not in my house. My home was a sacred place for me and my fiancé. Unless, of course, I happened to be on a big deadline or extraordinarily busy in which case I brought home files and a few floppy disks (or ZIPs, remember those?) to tend to a project on my big bulky grey desktop. Doing this meant, of course, that I was a total go-getter.
Do you remember this era?
I do. I remember coming home and feeling such relief. I remember feeling like I’d done a good day’s hard work and I had earned a good meal and some time off. I was like a farmer coming in from the fields.
I can’t remember the last recent time I felt like that.
Because with today’s ever-present access to technology, there is no hard stop to the workday. There’s always a way to get in touch with people. There’s always an e-mail we haven’t replied to. It’s weird if an e-mail isn’t replied to within a few hours, let alone a few days. It’s strange if someone doesn’t answer his or her cell phone. Why wouldn’t she have her phone with her? Is she dead? Did she get mugged?
It didn’t used to be like this. We used to remember that things could wait. We used to understand that an issue didn’t have to get resolved right this second, at 8PM on a Monday night. It could wait until the morning. We had only one way to connect with our coworkers after hours anyway—the telephone. And we understood that calling our colleague at home was an intrusion on family and personal time, only warranted under the duress of a real emergency.
Just a gentle reminder from the past: the world didn’t end when we waited until the morning. Have we lost the ability to pause? To unwind? Remember that? When you felt your work was done and you clapped your hands together and left the office? What a great feeling that was.
An experiment: Maybe for one night, after you’re done with work, hit the shut down button. Turn the computer/laptop/tablet/smartphone off–all the way off–and don’t turn it back on (and don’t cheat and check your phone!) until you’re back in the office.
In the morning, take a minute to enjoy the sunrise, to listen to the birds singing and to the sweet sounds of our beloved families just beginning a brand new day. It might just shift the day enough that we feel a bit less stressed, a bit more connected to what’s important, and a little less connected to everything else.